Malaysia map & highlights

Malaysia map & highlights


MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME

Kuala Lumpur may not electrify an absolutely authentic Asian experience; however, it offers easy links to the rest of Malaysia as well as Thailand and Singapore. Roads are excellent and although bus rides can be a bit hairy they offer easy access to the Cameron Highlands, Belum rainforest, Penang and the north-eastern state of Kelantan. Trains take a little longer but the scenery, en route to Taman Negara in particular, more than makes up for the travel time. If you’re looking to whizz to either coast or further east to Borneo there are numerous domestic flights from KL; these are definitely worthwhile if you’re pushed for time.
Belum Forest Reserve Berembun Forest Reserve Cameron Highlands Endau-Rompin National Park Kuala Lumpur Langkawi Malacca City Malaysian Borneo Penang Perhentian Islands Taman Negara National Park Tioman Island

Belum Forest Reserve

Belum is an extremely important spot for wildlife with tigers, elephants, gibbons and sun bears all to be found way off the typical tourist trail. Overnight in a lodge invites quite possibly the loudest and most eclectic dawn chorus imaginable with river boat trips getting you closer to hornbills guarding river banks whilst gibbons dominate durian, mango and jackfruit trees from above.

Berembun Forest Reserve

Just an hour’s drive from KL you’ll find the perfect antidote to shopping in a peaceful world of jungle covered hillsides, trickling streams and tiered waterfalls. Berembun’s location, relatively close to KL’s airport, adds to the appeal with opportunities to stay overnight and trek with a local Temuan village guide allowing a deeper understanding of how Malaysia once looked, before the shiny bits.

Cameron Highlands

Lush green tea estates and British hill stations make the Cameron Highlands a much milder alternative to city life around 200kms north of KL. Aside from the stunning tropical scenery, pitted with golf clubs, temples and lake houses, the Highlands offer a perfect place for hikers with marked tracks through jungles and mossy forests leading to hidden waterfalls and misty mountain views.

ENDAU-ROMPIN NATIONAL PARK

Set against the southern slopes of the Tenasserim Hills, which stretch all the way from Thailand, Endau-Rompin National Park features 25km of tropical trails within one of the oldest rainforest habitats on earth. Visit with a guide and you’ll discover not only Malaysia’s greatest waterfall, Buaya Sangkut, but also indigenous Orang Asli people living within the realm of endangered rhinos.

Kuala Lumpur

KL isn't everyone's cup of teh tarik but it's not completely bereft of charm with Chinatown, Little India and Merdeka Square all worth a visit. The monorail system is the best way to get around, often because it's nigh on impossible to cross the road; and if you're looking for shade or refreshment then Lake Gardens or KLCC Park are often preferable to indoor alternatives.

Langkawi

Ferries or a short flight from KL transport travelers to this 100 island archipelago, just south of Thailand, where four inhabited islands, including Langkawi (the main island), provide rainforest-covered mountains, fine sand and varying degrees of water visibility. Langkawi Island, Pantai Cenang in particular, can get busy so head north for a wilder scene away from the beach bars.

Malacca City

As far as former fishing villages go, Malacca has certainly risen to the occasion with UNESCO status covering the city’s historic central district to include Jonker Walk in Chinatown and several examples of colonial heritage. Malacca is testament to Malaysia’s multi-faith society with mosques, churches and temples sitting side by side while cycle rickshaws transport tourists from one site to the next.

Malaysian Borneo

This one time headhunter homeland now provides about 130 sq km of protected rainforest in the states of Sabah and Sarawak as well as two of Malaysia’s most popular highlights: Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Mt Kinabalu. Staying in a traditional longhouse, boat rides on the Kinabatangan River and coral reef dive excursions all make Borneo ideal for travelers who like to unleash their wild side.

Penang

If you're all about the art, Penang's UNESCO capital, Georgetown, is literally covered in paintings and sculptures as well as indoor galleries and heritage museums. Coined: the food capital of Malaysia, as well as a multi-cultural mosaic, Penang features a cornucopia of festivals, colonial architecture, parks, beaches and hillsides, making it pretty special, even by Malaysian standards.

Perhentian Islands

Sitting 20km off West Malaysia's northeast coast, the Perhentian Islands have long provided a sublime stopping point for firstly traders and more recently travelers. The two main inhabited islands Besar (‘Big’) and Kecil (‘Small’) are accessible by boat, usually from Kuala Besut, and feature turtle conservation centres, white sand beach resorts, jungle trails and the odd monitor lizard.

Taman Negara National Park

As one of the oldest tropical rainforests on earth, Taman Negara National Park has quite rightly gained protected status and provides essential habitat for many of Malaysia’s endemic mammals, including: critically endangered Malayan tigers and North Sumatran rhino, as well as over 300 species of bird. Canopy walkways, jungle treks and white water rafting all help to add to the natural attraction.

TIOMAN ISLAND

Surrounded by protected coral reefs and featuring animals aplenty in Pulau Tioman Wildlife Reserve, it’s no surprise that Tioman Island, off the southeast coast, is an ideal option for hikers and snorkellers looking to escape. There are eight different kampongs (villages) on Tioman, with several paths leading across the island to hidden waterfalls, beaches and long-tailed macaques.

MALAYSIA TRAVEL TIMES


The following times give you a rough idea of distances between some of the key locations in and around the Malay Peninsula:

  • Singapore to Kuala Lumpur: 45 mins by plane
  • Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu (Borneo): 2hrs 30 mins by plane
  • Kuala Lumpur to Malacca: 2hrs 15 mins by road
  • Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi Island: 1hr by plane
  • Langkawi Island to Penang: 2-5hrs by ferry
  • Penang to Cameron Highlands: 4hrs by road
  • Cameron Highlands to Taman Negara: 4hrs by road
  • Taman Negara NP to KL: 3hrs 15 mins by road
  • Cameron Highlands to Kuala Besut jetty: 5hrs by road
  • Kuala Besut jetty to Perhentian Islands – 2 hours by ferry
  • Kuala Lumpur to Mersing jetty – 6 - 7 hours by bus
  • Mersing Harbour to Tioman Island – 1 – 2 hours by ferry

MALAYSIA SAMPLE ITINERARIES


Malaysia vacation (14 days): Kuala Lumpur ► Cameron Highlands ► Penang ► Langkawi

Malaysia family vacation (14 days): Kuala Lumpur ► Cameron Highlands ► Penang ► Banding Island ► Belum Forest ► Perhentian Islands ► Kota Bharu

Wildlife and culture vacation (14 days): Kuala Lumpur ► Penang National Park ► Georgetown ► Kuching (Borneo) ► Bako National Park ► Batang Ai ► Kuching ► Mulu National Park ► Kuala Lumpur
Photo credits: [Belum Forest Reserve: David Berkowitz] [Berembun Forest Reserve: Honza Soukup] [Cameron Highlands: Ken Marshsall] [Endau-Rompin National Park: Ronald Tagra] [Kuala Lumpur: Jorge Láscar] [Langkawi: Phuket@photographer.net] [Malacca City: Azri Suratmin ] [Malaysian Borneo: Joe Hunt] [Penang: Phalinn Ooi] [Perhentian Islands: Nguyen Thanh Lam] [Taman Negara National Park: RoB] [Tioman Island: Jorge Cancela]

Written by: Chris Owen
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